The Prophet has exhorted us to fast during the following days: six days of the month of Shawwal, first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah for those not performing the pilgrimage, month of Muharram.
Voluntary Fasts, six days of the month of Shawwal:
Abu Ayyub al-Ansari reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "Whoever fasts during the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of Shawwal will be [rewarded] as if he had fasted the entire year." This is related by "the group," except for al-Bukhari and anNasa'i.
According to Ahmad, one may fast on these days consecutively or nonconsecutively, as neither practice is preferred over the other. Hanafiyyah and Shaf'iyyah maintain that it is preferable to fast on consecutive days after the 'id.
Voluntary FastsThe first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah, especially the day of Arafah, for those who are not performing the pilgrimage:
1. Abu Qatadah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: "Fasting on the day of 'Arafah is an expiation for two years, the year preceding it and the year following it. Fasting the day of 'Ashurah is an expiation for the year preceding it." This is related by "the group," except for al-Bukhari and at-Tirmidhi.
2. Hafsah reported: "There are five things that the Prophet never abandoned: fasting the day of 'Ashurah, fasting the [first] ten [days of Dhul-Hijjah], fasting three days of every month and praying two rak'ah before the dawn prayer." This is related by Ahmad and an-Nasa'i.
3. 'Uqbah ibn 'Amr reported that the Messenger of Allah said: "The day of 'Arafah, the day of sacrifice, and the days of tashreeq are 'ids for us--the people of Islam--and they are days of eating and drinking." This is related by "the five," except for Ibn Majah. At-Tirmidhi grades it sahih.
4. Abu Hurairah stated: "The Messenger of Allah forbade fasting on the day of 'Arafah for one who is actually at 'Arafah." This is related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, an-Nasa'i, and Ibn Majah. At-Tirmidhi comments: "The scholars prefer that the day of 'Arafah be fasted unless one is actually at 'Arafah."
5. Umm al-Fadl said: "The people were in doubt over whether or not the Prophet was fasting on the day of 'Arafah. I sent him some milk, and he drank it while he was delivering an address to the people at 'Arafah." This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Voluntary Fasts, Fasting during the month of Muharram, especially the day of 'Ashurah and the days immediately preceding and following it:
Abu Hurairah reported: "I asked the Prophet: 'Which prayer is the best after the obligatory prayers?' He said: 'Prayer during the middle of the night.' I asked: 'Which fast is the best after the fast of Rarnadan?' He said, 'The month of Allah that you call Muharram.' " This is related by Ahmad, Muslim, and Abu Dawud.
Mu'awiyyah ibn Abu Sufyan reported that he heard the Messenger of Allah say: "Concerning the day of 'Ashurah, it is not obligatory upon you to fast on it as I do. Whoever wishes may fast and whoever does not wish to is not obliged to do so." This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
'Aishah stated: "The tribe of Quraish used to fast on the day of 'Ashurah in the days before Islam, as did the Prophet. When he came to Madinah, he still fasted on it and ordered the people to do likewise. Then, when fasting during the month of Ramadan becam obligatory, he said: 'Whoever wishes may fast ['Ashurah] and whoever wishes may leave it." This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Ibn 'Abbas reported: "The Prophet came to Madinah and found the Jews fasting on the day of 'Ashurah. He said to them: 'What is this fast?' They said: 'A great day. Allah saved Moses and the tribes of Israel from their enemies on this day and therefore, Moses fasted on this day.' The Prophet said: 'We have more of a right to Moses than you,' so he fasted on that day also and ordered the people to fast on that day." This is recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
According to al-Bukhari and Muslim, Musa al-Ash'ari reported: "The Jews would honor the day of 'Ashurah as an 'id. The Prophet said: 'You [Muslims] are to fast on it.'"
Ibn 'Abbas reported: "The Messenger of Allah fasted on the day of 'Ashurah and ordered the people to fast on it. The people said: 'O Messenger of Allah, it is a day that the Jews and Christians honor.' The Prophet said, 'When the following year comes--Allah willing--we shall fast on the ninth.' The death of the Prophet came before the following year." This is recorded by Muslim and Abu Dawud. In one version the wording is: "If I remain until next year, we shall fast the ninth," meaning, the tenth. This is related by Muslim and Abu Dawud.
The scholars have mentioned that the fast of 'Ashurah is of three levels:
1. fasting three days--that is, on the 9th, 10th, and 11th of Muharram;
2. fasting on the 9th and 10th; and
3. fasting only on the 10th.
Being generous in providing household provisions on the day of 'Arafah:
Jabir reported that the Messenger of Allah said: "Whoever is generous to himself and to his family on the day of 'Ashurah will have Allah's generosity bestowed on him for the rest of the year." This is related by al-Baihaqi in ash-Shu'ab and by Ibn 'Abdul-Barr. The hadith has other chains, but they are all weak; however, strung together these chains strengthen the rank of the hadith, as as-Sakhawi said.
Fasting most of the month of Sha'ban (the month preceding Ramadan):
The Prophet would fast most of the month of Sha'ban. 'Aishah said: "I never saw the Messenger of Allah fast a complete month save for Ramadan, and I have never seen him fast more in a month than he did in Sha'ban." This is related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Usamah ibn Zaid inquired: "O Messenger of Allah, I never find you fasting in any month like you do during the month of Sha'ban." The Prophet responded: "That is a month the people neglect. It comes between Rajab and Ramadan. It is a month in which the deeds are raised to the Lord of the Worlds. I love that my deeds be raised while I am fasting." This is related by Abu Dawud, an-Nasa'i, and by Ibn Khuzaimah in his Sahih.
Some people fast on the 15th of Sha'ban in particular, thinking that that day contains more virtues than the other days. This is an unsubstantiated claim.
Fasting during the "forbidden" months:
The "forbidden" months (during which killing is forbidden) are Dhul-Qidah, DhulHijjah, Muharram, and Rajab. It is preferred to fast a lot during these months.
A man from Bahila came to the Prophet and said: "O Messenger of Allah, I am the man who came to you during the first year." The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "What has changed you? You used to be much more handsome!" He answered: "I did not eat save during the night since I left you." The Messenger of Allah asked: "Why did you punish yourself? Fast during the month of patience [that is, Ramadan] and then one day of every month." The man said: "Add something to that for me, for I have more strength than that." The Prophet responded: "Fast two days [a month]." The man said: "Add more for me." The Prophet said three times: "Fast from the forbidden months, then leave fasting." He pointed with three of his fingers by clenching them and releasing them. This is related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, and al-Baihaqi with a good chain.
Fasting during Rajab contains no more virtue than during any other month. There is no sound report from the sunnah that states that it has a special reward. All that has been related concerning it is not strong enough to be used as a proof. Ibn Hajr says: "There is no authentic hadith related to its virtues, not fasting during it or on certain days of it, nor concerning exclusively making night prayers during that month."
Fasting Mondays and Thursdays:
Abu Hurairah reported that the most the Prophet would fast would be Monday and Thursday. He was asked about that and he said: "The actions are presented on every Monday and Thursday. Allah forgives every Muslim or every believer, except for those who are boycotting each other. He says [about them]: 'Leave them.' " This is related by Ahmad with a sahih chain. It is recorded in Sahih Muslim that the Prophet, when asked about fasting on Monday, said: "That is the day on which I was born and the day on which I received revelations."
Fasting three days of every month:
Abu Dharr al-Ghafari reported: "The Messenger of Allah ordered us to fast for three days of every month--that is, on the days of the full moon (the 13th, 14th, and 15th of the lunar month). And he said: 'It is like fasting the whole year.' " This is related by an-Nasa'i and by Ibn Hibban, who called it sahih. It is related that the Prophet would fast on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday of one month and on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of the next month. He would also fast for three days at the beginning of the month, or on the first Thursday and the next two Mondays of the month.
Fasting one day and not fasting the next:
Abu Salama ibn 'Abdurrahman reported from 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said to him: 'I have been informed that you stay up in prayer during the night and fast during the day. 'Abdullah answered: "Yes, O Messenger of Allah." The Prophet said: "Fast and do not fast, pray and sleep, for your body, your wife, and your guests have a right upon you. It is sufficient for you to fast three days a month." 'Abdullah said: "I wanted to be stricter on myself and I said: "O Messenger of Allah, I have the strength to do more." The Prophet said: "Then fast three days a week." 'Abdullah said: "I have the strength to do more!" The Prophet said: "Fast the fast of the Prophet David and do not do more than that!" 'Abdullah inquired: "And what was the fast of David?" The Prophet replied: "He would fast one day and then not fast the next." This is recorded by Ahmad and others.
Ahmad also related from 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr that the Prophet said: "The fast most loved by Allah is the fast of David, and the most loved prayer is the prayer of David. He would sleep half the night, pray for a third of the night, and then sleep during the last sixth of the night. He would also fast one day and then eat on the next."
It is permissible for one who is performing a voluntary fast to break his fast:
Umm Hani reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, entered her room during the day of the conquest of Makkah. He was offered something to drink and he drank from it. Then he offered it to Umm Hani and she said: "I am fasting." The Prophet said: "The one who is fasting voluntarily is in charge of himself. If you wish you may fast and if you wish you may break your fast." This is recounted by Ahmad, ad-Daraqutni, and alBaihaqi. Al-Hakim also related it and said that its chain is sahih. The version he recorded states: "And if one wishes he may fast and if he wishes he may break his fast."
Abu Juhaifah said: "The Prophet established the bond of brotherhood between Salman and Abu ad-Darda. Once, Salman visited Abu ad-Darda and saw Umm ad-Darda wearing very plain clothes. He said to her: 'What's happening to you?' She said: 'Your brother Abu ad-Darda has no need in this world.' When Abu adDarda came, he prepared some food for Salman and said: 'Eat, for I am fasting.' Salman said: 'I shall not eat until you eat.' So he ate. When it was night, Abu ad-Darda got up to pray and Salman said, 'Sleep,' and he did so. Toward the end of the night Salman woke Abu ad-Darda and said, Pray now.' And they prayed. Salman told him: 'Your Lord has a right upon you, you have a right upon yourself, and so does your wife. Give each one its due right.' Abu adDarda went to the Prophet and told him what Salman had said. The Prophet said: 'Salman has said the truth.' " This is related by al-Bukhari and at-Tirmidhi.
Abu Sa'id al-Khudri said: "I prepared food for the Prophet. He came to me with some of his companions. When the food was laid out, one of the men said: 'I am fasting.' The Messenger of Allah said: 'Your brother has invited you and incurred expenses in your behalf.' Then he asked [him], Break your fast and fast another day in its place if you wish.' " This is related by al-Baihaqi. Al-Hafidh says it has a hassan chain.
Most scholars maintain that one who is performing a voluntary fast can break it. It is, however, preferred to make up that day later on. The preceding view is clear and authentic hadith are support for that position.
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